Posts tagged “Sci Fi

Remainder (2015)


I just caught Remainder (2015) purely on recommendation from Mark Kermode a film he compared with Synecdoche, New York (2006) another film that caught my imagination in terms of how realities are constructed, both within the film and the theoretical consequences of those constructions. When Tom (Tom Sturridge) suffers brain damage in an awful accident in London, his whole life becomes fragmented. Having to start over again really. Learn to walk, move, to be him again, which is something we never really see, more a version that is after the accident. After a massive payout from the accident he’s in a financial position to try to understand what happened to him. That’s before we see a guy who alienates his brother, his ex and those who just want to help him. Is this him before after the accident, an abrasive guy who just can no longer function normally in society. You would want to steer clear of this guy for a while at least, could it be the brain damage that has altered his personality? None of these questions are really answered.

Instead with a payout (around £8.5 million) he sets about reconstructing a fractured memory. With the money behind him he can start to realise what is going on in his tormented head. Turning to Naz (Arsher Ali) who is quickly hired as his PA, producer and general assistant who takes more than he really has to. A guy who is the conscience of the film – not that you’d really know as he is rather passive unless really needed, You could easily read a sexual relationship of dominator and dominated – Naz being mostly dominated throughout this odd yet rather fascinating film.

I would like to have known how the accident first occurred as we discover it acts as time-loop that would in theory allow the events to unfold infinitely which would allow for a more horrific and disturbing film than what we have. So what do we have when he’s back on his feet. A loner with financial freedom to try and reconstruct his memory, or one specific one, as the clip above begins to really move the plot forward which up until then does drag, as we like Tom are unsure of where things are going, just as much as we are. After the meeting which goes pretty well, we begin to see the perfectionist really breaking out, the control freak who through ear pieces and pure power, his memory starting to resurface. It’s rather odd to see an old lady being told at whim to move forward and then in reverse, to have the sound levels reduced, everything is at his whim. It’s not virtual reality – or is it. It’s a reality that he has constructed to allow him to explore what is or what.

I’m very much reminded of Synecdoche, New York when a theatre director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) construct and direct a whole world. Yet there’s more creative freedom in this controlled environment. He allows his actors to bring their own interpretations of the roles. It’s a collaborative construction, not one that’s dictated. He has the remote control. There’s no delegation here. The similarities lie in the loss of time, it has no meaning here, only to allow us to re-enact what is going on in and now outside of his head. Both are driven for the truth and at great cost to the men. Before long we see him paying actors to play-out a more intimate moment in his flat, is his torturing himself or wanting to understand this moment in his life. He’s deadly serious and shows no or little thought for those who are part of his recreations.

The action moves from the block of flats to a reconstruction of a bank where a robbery took place, Tom’s fascinated to understand what went on there, how it played out. But why, and how is that connected to him. Only a guy he knew – Chris (Jumayn Hunter) whose killed and believed to be linked to the crime. It’s an avenue he must explore, an instinctive urge within him to explore. He doesn’t care what lengths he goes to, he’s almost suicidal in his acts. The robbery becomes the central focus of the film as Tom begins to pay for a full-scale replica of the bank, the street it’s on and the sky above. It’s like a film set without the cameras to capture the action, no audience to witness the crime, just actors who blindly replay the scene over and over again. A time-loop which can be controlled at his whim.

I was disturbed at the lengths he goes to, the control freak nature of the character makes him very unlikable, yet we carry on watching as we want to know what is this all about. A clinically controlled set that is carrying out the same test right up until the final test where reality is the new variable, shaking up the cards, going out to the real location, the actors have been lab-rats in one giant laboratory experiment, with no real purpose more than to explain the fragments of the mind of a guy that you come to really dislike. It’s the whole process and methodology that keeps you involved in the dark film that really gives you little to work with.

Patients who suffer with amnesia would relish being to have the freedom to re-enact scenes from their fragmented or lost memories in hoping to fill in the lost parts of their long-term memory. I was drawn to the low-key initial creations, the drawings and cardboard models that allowed Tom to start to piece together his past, which turns out to be a vicious circle he is doomed to repeat, there’s no room for change here, not like in Groundhog Day (1993) which allowed weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) to relive and learn from the day and improve himself in order to finally escape this loop which first was too much to handle. Tom is nothing like Phil, who was just as unlikable to begin but finds redemption in his ability to learn and grow. This is pure sci-fi that shows sometimes are destiny can sometimes never be altered. Flawed yet deeply fascinating, with questions that are left unanswered after seeing a guy we hardly know become someone you care little about yet your hanging onto know whats going to happen

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Robocop (1987)


robocop (1987)I probably started the wrong way around when it comes to Paul Verhoeven and his work, for most people he begins with Robocop (1987) a film that really is a key piece of modern cinema, that blends sci-fi and blockbuster, allowing two audiences can get a hell of a lot out of the otherwise ultra-violent film that can be seen to go to far. Violence I have learnt is really only effective when cranked up with some discussion behind it. You really do see what happens when a round of bullets comes your way. It’s over the top and caricatures that shows probably more than we see in reality, heightened to grab out attention, to see what violence really could do to an individual wreak havoc on society. Something that is sadly becoming more of a reality on the streets of America. Gun violence is sadly seen to be more prevalent.

You could say that Robocop is quite prophetic in its vision of a bleak violent future that holds the city of Detroit in fear. The police force are ready to strike at the lack of real defense against the criminals that run wild. With Clarence J. Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) a known cop-killer on the loose, the cities most wanted man adding another cop to his every week. Whilst up above in corporate 1980’s America a new weapon in the name of public safety is being unveiled to a select few, a clunky two legged gun totting robot is still needing some adjustments before being rolled out. Violence to fight violence, there is no middle ground, enough fire-power and no room for maneuvering when it comes to law enforcement. Another method is soon proposed that can bring together man and machine.

On the streets we meet newly transfer Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller) wide eyed, eager and not afraid to fight crime. Once he’s met his new partner Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) who had recently lost her last partner to Boddicker. They meet once more when the hungry new transfer is in pursuit, ready to make arrest. Aware that he’s out-numbered, he’s facing the very man whose killed many of his profession before. There’s a sense of revenge in the air, mixed with wanting to be a hero. Which backfires incredibly badly for him, shot to pieces and left for a dead, another cop killed on duty.

We leave the standard third person point of view to become Murphy as he is brought into hospital where they fail to revive him, its curtains for the once eager cop. Before wake up in the future behind the lens of a camera, our perception’s altered as we become the centre of attention. Discussion of technology, entering another world of great change and the unknown what is to come. Of course we all know, this is the transformation, the meeting of man and machine and the law into one being, a being that has three directive purpose to serve the public, to protect the innocent and uphold the law. A walking machine that at first has people in awe at the spectacle that is bringing down the crime-rate in Detroit single-handedly. His presence alone puts fear in the criminal and hope into the victim.

Whilst up above in the corporation that created him a war is brewing between Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) and his technology rival Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer), things get dirty and quick as the plot thickens. Living in a world of luxury of indulgence mixed with copious amounts of power that looms ahead for either of them. It’s all hammy and dangerously fun when you look at his today, as they fight for the top job, it has to end badly for one of them with another twist that show just how corrupt this corporation can be.

Robocop is not only a walking talking prototype but also a pawn in a game that allows progress to move forward. Without considering the consequences of the coming together of so machine with man. Incredible to look at even today the costume has become iconic, the clunky design that packs quite a lot of fire-power too. We can easily forget that a man is inside all of that circuitry and armour that allows the law to be enforced without emotion of human memory. Which really is what Murphy is missing as the machine becomes more self-aware, his biology fights the technology to regain his independence his humanity which as we see uses as the real weapon as the film comes to it’s conclusion.

It becomes overblown, literally as the Robocop understands more about himself, his purposes and situation and future position in life and society. Boddicker is another pawn of the corporation that uses him to bring down, its becomes human against human when the machines ultimately fail, humanity is far stronger than any machine that we can produce. So how do we fight crime then?  that’s the real question of this film how do you enforce the law and lengths do you go to. This is why Robocop stands the test of time more so today than ever before.

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Snowpiercer (2013)


Snowpiercer (2013)It’s a shame that Snowpiercer (2013) didn’t get a UK release last year, having only caught the trailer by chance I thought I’d look out for it in some form. Catching it on an Italian import I was able to see what as going on in this fascinating Sci-fi film confined to a train that travelled the frozen Earth for the last 18 years since a chemical released into the atmosphere in hopes of reversion the effects if global warming. Which had devastating effects on the now snow-covered planet we call home. Leaving only a handful of our civilisation alive, returning society to a strict class system that was once informed on trains. Something we still have today thanks to the recession that has seen the richer get richer and the poor poorer. A struggle for equality is something those at the rear of this beast of a train called the Snowpiercer are fighting for. Lead by Curtis (Chris Evans) assumes the role of natural leader of these survivors who had previously trued to escape from an autocratic social systems that sees the rich comes down only when necessary for those with skills and children they require. The old world we thought we had once left has returned travels around the globe once a year.

I must say I have only been in 1st class once and hated it, I read a menu which had a breakfast with a muffin for £15 which is a ridiculous price really, nobody talks to anyone. Something I am naturally against, an innate feeling that repels me from the upper class, or even first class, a down to earth guy who worked hard and reaps those rewards. Not those of circumstance and privilege. This is a personal perception none the less which is to some extent reinforced in this Terry Gilliam-esque world that shows everything has its place whilst still not really making sense.

After two children are taken away it’s the last straw for the rear of the train, after being shamefully lectured with a shoe metaphor about knowing their place, courtesy of Mason (Tilda Swinton) whilst another is being tortured. Its time to act, time to break free of the carriages they’re confined to and make their way to the front of the train and gain control from the engineer and leader Wilford (Ed Harris). Every carriage is a fight at first, needing the help of drug addict and engineer Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-ho Song) to open the doors allowing them to move up the train.

Each door reveals new challenges and surprises, learning more about the inner working of the train and how the society functions, from the kitchen that feeds the rear to the school that brain washes the children to learning a very skewed version of earths history. All made possible by the wise and wonderful Wilford who has constructed a very top-heavy society which functions on order and dominance. Utilising fear to control the rear who are slowly making ground in ever diminishing numbers. Only a few actually make it to the from. We begin with a large and international cast, this is not your average Hollywood film where all the main cast are American, leaning more toward European, ok its largely British. Swinton and weird form with a Yorkshire accent, whilst John Hurt starting to become typecast as the old and wise man who is behind the rebellion.

We start in the dark violent rear of the train, work threw all the axe-wielding soldiers which provides the most violence that is quickly replaced by a slow-motion sequence as we lose quite a few of the rebellion. A brave move by the dictator Joon-ho Bong we are left with a few that we at first wouldn’t expect. Theres a better sense of reality, we can lose stronger people at any point in life which is reflected here. It’s grim to be honest and probably a reason why the film has not yet been released over here theatrically. Becoming brighter and more mysteriously quirky as we reach the engine room. Where all the mystery that has been built up us explained, pulling the film apart more than enriching it. There are some important details revealed which try to counter that all of that.

I also felt let down by the special effects which construct the outside world, which is all to artificial to engage with. It’s as if I as watching a promotional video for a computer game, expect nothing really matched up except the snow. Looking at the credits there were a number of companies involved on the film. Maybe they were all working on different aspects of the film, which would probably work better if the work wasn’t spread so thin, as it looses its visual identity. There are some incredible sequences nonetheless which do blow your mind. I just wish they matched up though.

All of that doesn’t detract from a film which has an interesting idea at the heart of it, taking two themes, one of climate change and social class and throws them both together on a form of transport that helped to reinforced both of them. There’s a lot going on here which keeps you occupied and mind focused, so many characters who we meet along the way. Leaving us to meet Harris at the end playing very much the same role as he had in The Truman Show (1998) a delusional god-like figure who believes he is doing only good, a rational thinker and leader who is intact very flawed.

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Interstellar (2014)


Interstellar (2014)I’ve given myself an hour to properly digest this epic film that really does deliver on visual spectacle if nothing else. I’ve known from just the trailer (which I’ve tried to avoid) that it references both Contact (1997) and more importantly 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). It’s hard to really see Interstellar (2014) and not think of these two films. We seem to be getting more and more sci-fi with the message of saving the planet before it’s too late. More so here when its time to up-sticks and find somewhere else to live. It’s not an easy task when the world population has been reduced from one of materialist wealth and greed to one of pure survival, the world’s stock of basic food-stuffs is down to corn, which we see plenty of that throughout the scenes on mother earth that seems to want to get rid of us in sandstorms.

When single father of two Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) stumbles across a secret Nasa plan to find a new home for the human race, which is left in the dark about the project, seen as political futile, when its more important to put food on the table. The project lead by Professor Brand Nolan regular Michael Caine who by chance alone believes that the ex-pilot Cooper is needed to pilot the mission aboard the Endurance along with the professor’s daughter Brand (Anne Hathaway). For Cooper it’s a decision that doesn’t come lightly, his son Tom takes the news far better than Murph who is very much like her father develops feelings of abandonment. Left in the care of grandfather Donald (John Lithgow) who is able to see the bigger picture, knowing his son wants to make a difference.

The Endurance team leave planet earth with such hope and aspirations, knowing that they may never be coming back home, their families will probably never see them again. They have three possible planets to check out, thats after going through a wormhole that was conveniently found just next to Saturn. This is where the science really begins, already having our first serving courtesy of Professor Brand we have to let the science go over our heads to a certain extent to enjoy the visual splendour (not created in a computer). I do understand some of the science, having seen my share of sci-fi over the years, there are still moments I’m left scratching my head. But then If I was left thinking about all the techno-babble I would be missing the amazing planets that they visit. The lone spacecraft which Endurance docks travels through space.

Much like 2001: A Space Odyssey the science is still very much possible, none of what we see on-screen is too far away, apart from TARS (Bill Irwinthe onboard computer who accompanies the crew, more human than the computers we are used to. Predicting the level of sophistication that is in are grasp, give to take a century. Matched by McConaughey’s down to earth approach to the film that keeps everything grounded and engaging for the audience who is taken back and forth to earth (missing out the wormhole).

For this film to work minus the science (with the plot-holes) would be far less enjoyable. Nolan doesn’t patronise the audience with quick ideas, its researched properly, with added entertainment factor, it’s not supposed to be fully factual, it’s a film at the end of the day, if you wants facts read a book or read a science article. The science makes it all seem more real. I have to admire Nolan’s push for the celluloid film which is a dying medium, wanting to be authentic as possible. This way he was able to move away from the digital hold, allowing him to rely on good old-fashioned tricks of the light which you can really tell the difference when placed up against a C.G.I. blockbuster. We see little of space, but when we do, it’s wondrous and all spectacle, it’s an event of a film.

To say this film has faults I would probably shoot for the science which can go over your head at times like I mentioned earlier, it wouldn’t be Nolan without it. The cast is held together by McConaughey and Jessica Chastain as the older Murph, who fight for the truth when it is finally revealed we are left uncertain which way the film will lean. The rest of the cast are not really important, with a few pages of dialogue each.

From the reviews I’ve already read I was still left unsure how the reunion would come together. Where there is hopelessness at the beginning of the film, as if Nolan is against anything technological (not just digital film) he does have a point as much as we don’t want to admit it. My own mobile provider is practically forcing me to have an upgrade. The need for material goods is incredible that we loose sight of what is really important, the need for food, water, shelter and good health. Which without we would be screwed. Unlike Gravity (2013) which I can never watch again unless I’m wearing 3D glasses, I could easily watch this over and over for just the visuals which are heavily influenced by Stanley Kubrick who had not even heard of C.G.I. The need to improvise really pays off here, hearing stories of how Anne Hathaway stood on one leg to float about, all the old tricks work and hold up. The ludite in Nolan really pays off, because he works hard at his craft, he didn’t earn the title as the next David Lean from Michael Caine for no good reason.

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Solaris (2002)


Solaris (2002)Unlike the earlier film I have been aware of Solaris (2002) since it was released but never really took much notice of it, again because I didn’t think much of George Clooney, now times have changed and along came the opportunity to watch this sci-fi oddity. At first I thought I was in for something like Moon (2009) which was really something to watch, always cranking up the tension. However it was something completely different, whilst having the same minimal tone, with a few more actors thrown into the cast which sees psychiatrist Chris Kelvin (Clooney) requested to travel to a deep space station near the planet Solaris which has experienced some difficulties with the crew. Very little is revealed in the not too distant future message.

We are soon transported to a station that takes its visual cues from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and that is not the only think relating to the earlier film here. The sparseness of the spacecraft reflects the tone of the film that has seen a crew dwindle in numbers, having succumbed to madness. It’s not all so obvious until later on, without the aid of the flashbacks that see Kelvin meeting and marrying his late wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone) who is a fascinating and intriguing character who plagues the mind of Kelvin and more importantly the crew.

It takes a while to become clear until we see Rheya arrives not once but twice on the station, which confuses not just Kelvin but the audience who only learn more when a meeting between the two remaining members Gordon (Viola Davis) and Snow (Jeremy Davies). It’s Gordon who already is aware of what’s been going on explains all to us and more importantly a confused Kelvin who has been reunited with his dead wife (which is only hinted at this point). It seems that the planet is producing beings in the image of the crew memories, who then become trapped on the station.

A fascinating idea which has been used time and again, here with a new twist which sees a man who has not properly dealt with his wife’s death, having to confront that head on. When he is confronted with what he believes to be his wife, is based on his memories alone which produced a flawed being who is aware of that imperfection, which bothers her. There’s a need then to return to her natural form. I am reminded of the Nexus in Star Trek: Generations (1994) which allowed an individual to live in a moment for an eternity if they wanted to, creating their own world and life, dictated by the visitor. Here the beings enter our universe due to human memories, maybe to explore another way of life. Which in turn killed members of the crew which we knew was happening, putting to the back of our minds until we see Snow dead. A character who is far too chilled out to be really bothered by the events on the station.

It’s a strong metaphor for showing the importance and need to grieve when we lose someone. Instead of holding onto that absence to a point where we can’t carry on. They should become a memory within us that shall be remember, hopefully far longer than their actual life. If those memories took a physical form we would never really move on with our lives, living in a state of limbo and unhappiness, and that is not living. Sometimes it takes Sci Fi for us to see and understand a very human idea in a new light, showing the sometimes emptiness of life, as the station represents, and a crew who themselves are trapped in this state of mind. Visually it’s very minimal and stylized in a not too distant future. The soundtrack reflects that too create a sense of unease that can make things unbearable for the viewer. It references a lot of science fiction that has gone before to create it’s look, also bearing in mind its a remake of the Russian original

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